Financial Elder Abuse
Financial Elder Abuse and How to Avoid Being Scammed
When you think about elder care, visions of grand-children enjoying quality time with their beloved grandparents likely come to mind. But unfortunately, an elderly person in America is increasingly targeted by predatory scams. Financial elder abuse is an under-reported and under-prosecuted crime, making it all the more important that families and caregivers understand how to protect their senior loved ones from such schemes.
That’s why we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll discuss some common scams targeting seniors, as well as strategies for helping seniors avoid financial abuse. We’ll also discuss how families can identify the signs of financial elder abuse and what to do if they suspect their senior loved one is being taken advantage of.
Overview of Elder Care Scams in the USA
It’s no secret that seniors across the USA are at risk of financial abuse. Unfortunately, elder care scams have become increasingly common in recent years, with many seniors losing significant amounts of money to fraudulent schemes.
The common forms of elder financial abuse scams include fraudsters posing as charities and organizations offering services for elderly individuals, financial advisors leveraging their power over a senior’s investments, scams involving home repairs and improvements, and more. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from these scammers and their potentially devastating practices.
One important way to guard against financial elder abuse is to stay informed about the latest scams targeted towards seniors in your area. Be sure to keep up with news reports about fraud cases happening nearby and share them with your elderly family members or loved ones who may be vulnerable. Additionally, it’s a good idea to monitor personal banking and credit card statements for suspicious activity, review legal documents carefully before signing them, and always be wary of strangers who call or approach you directly with offers that seem too good to be true.
Common Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious problem in the United States. Although difficult to detect, there are some common warning signs you should look out for. After all, it’s important to protect your elderly loved ones from becoming victims of scams and any type of abuse.
Below are some common signs to watch for:
- Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, such as an unexplained withdrawal;
- Unfamiliar signatures on financial documents;
- Unusual activity on records such as credit cards, bank accounts or investments;
- Items or cash missing from the home;
- Unexpected changes in a will, power of attorney or other legal documents.
If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being financially abused, contact the police and a lawyer immediately. It’s also wise to notify their financial institution and any other companies they may be doing business with so that they can take the necessary steps to stop it.
How to Spot Fraudsters
Protecting seniors from financial abuse doesn’t just mean knowing the warning signs. It also means understanding how to identify a potential fraudster. Unfortunately, there are some particular tactics scammers may use to lure in their victims, and it’s important to make sure seniors—and everyone, really—are aware of these tactics.
Fraudsters may make false promises about the services they offer or the products they sell. They may overstate the “benefits” to make it seem like a great opportunity for seniors, even though their services come with hidden costs and fees. Worse yet, many fraudsters don’t even provide any of the services they promise!
High Pressure Sales Tactics
Fraudsters often use high pressure sales tactics to take advantage of seniors who are making decisions in a hurry or under pressure. These unethical salespeople may pressure seniors into contracts that they don’t fully understand or can’t afford. It’s important for seniors to be aware of these scams and ask questions before signing any contracts or documents.
Identity theft affects millions of Americans each year, but seniors are especially vulnerable because many have established credit and a high net worth. It is important for elders to protect their personal information by using strong passwords and keeping financial documents safe and secure. Additionally, never allow someone access to your personal information without your consent first!
By understanding how various types of fraud work, you can help protect you and your loved ones from falling victim to elder financial abuse scams in the USA
Preventing Elder Financial Abuse: Best Practices
It’s heartbreaking to think of anyone falling victim to financial elder abuse scams, but it’s something that happens far too often—and you can help the seniors you care about by educating them on the best practices they can use to protect themselves. Con men are setting up new scams almost on a daily basis, and senior citizens are their primary target. The elderly are usually the easiest to scam and latest statistics reflect this.
Know the Signs
One of the most important things you can do is teach your loved one about recognizing the signs of a scam. Common signs include:
- Out-of-the-blue offers from strangers, especially if they promise big returns with no risk or require payment up front for services.
- People asking for money or personal info without proper identification.
- Amazing discounts for services that sound too good to be true.
- Being pressured to make a decision without time to research it or get a second opinion.
Conduct Background Checks
Whenever possible, encourage your loved one to conduct background checks on any individuals or companies they are looking into using for elder care services and products—especially if they are more costly than usual, as scams tend to be pretty pricey investments. Checking out reviews on official sites and personal references can also be very helpful in making sure the company is legitimate.
Guard Contact Information
Another thing you should tell your loved one is not to give out sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account information unless they are sure that the person asking for this information is who they say they are and is reliable. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
What to Do if You Suspect Financial Abuse
It can be tough to tell if a case of elder financial abuse of the elderly exists in a certain situation. But there are some signs to watch out for: like sudden changes in behavior or financial activity, the elderly individual suddenly giving away money or possessions, or a caregiver alienating them from family and friends.
If you suspect financial abuse of an elderly person, there are some steps you can take:
If you suspect someone is taking advantage of your loved one for financial gain, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. They’ll be able to help you file a report and advise on what steps to take next.
There are many elder financial abuse cases in the United States that are becoming increasingly common—according to one study, seniors lose around $2.6 billion annually due to elder financial exploitation—so it’s important to know the warning signs and be able to spot potential scams.
Make sure your loved one has a secure way of managing their finances, such as automatic bill payments that give them less freedom with their finances, and setting up a power of attorney so that someone trustworthy is looking after their best interests. Alternatively, finding a trusted lawyer with experience in elder law can also help ensure your loved one’s finances stay safe from harm.
Resources for Elder Care Safety
Although elder financial abuse is a serious problem, there are plenty of resources available to help protect your elderly loved ones from predators. The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) provides free services that are designed to educate consumers about their rights and help them avoid scams. NAPSA offers a variety of helpful materials including fact sheets, educational webinars, and even state-specific resource guides.
NAPSA’s website also includes:
- A list of state agencies that offer elder abuse prevention services
- An online scammers database
- Tips on how seniors can prevent financial scams
- Links to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) database on identity theft protection
The Elder Justice Initiative is another great resource that provides valuable information if a loved one was subject to financial elder abuse. This initiative, led by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), includes both national and local programs that are dedicated to stopping elder financial fraud in all its forms. Through this program, seniors can access support for reporting fraud and learning ways to protect themselves from financial exploitation. Resources include:
- Information about Medicare and Medicaid fraud reporting
- Tips for recovering stolen funds
- Educational videos about elder financial scams
- Advice on how family members can watch out for their loved ones
To keep seniors safe from financial elder abuse, it is essential to empower them with knowledge and resources. The first line of defense is to be aware and alert to identify potential scammers and predators, who prey on the most vulnerable. Taking the extra step of researching in-home services and assisted-living facilities is also important.
Finally, it is also important to be aware of one’s legal rights as a senior and to not be afraid to speak up if they feel they have been taken advantage of. By doing the research and having the conversation, seniors and their families can feel confident that they have taken steps to protect themselves and those they love. Remember, financial elder abuse is a crime, so know how to report it and where.